Mintos clinch spot in finals with 3-2 win over Wild

Andrew Schopp
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Winnipeg Wild forward Reid Stefanson tries to squeeze between Prince
Albert Mintos Braxx George and Braden Lozinski during second period
action in Game 4 of the 2014 Midget-AAA Western Regionals on Friday at
the Art Hauser Centre. Herald photo by Perry Bergson

The Prince Albert Mintos are one win away from punching their ticket to the 2014 Telus Cup in Moose Jaw. 

With a 3-2 triumph over the Winnipeg Wild on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre, the host Mintos can do no worse than a second overall finish in the 2014 Midget-AAA Western Regionals, clinching a spot in the final game.

Mintos coach Ken Morrison said spirits were high in the dressing room as his team now looks to the tournament's final game on Sunday.

"The boys are playing hard as a team and everybody's contributing," Morrison said. "They (Wild) had the momentum in the second when we got a couple penalties there but we fought back in the third and got a couple and then kind of hung on."

Meanwhile, emerging from the other room, Winnipeg Wild coach Paul Krueger was left wondering about what could have been after a pair of hard-fought losses eliminated his team from the final.

"It's unfortunate that we didn't get the bounces," Krueger said. "Tonight we battled hard and did everything possible to try to tie that game. I have to give our guys credit; they never quit. They're tough, tough losses."

Both teams struggled to generate quality scoring chances in the early going as the Mintos and Wild each mustered  just a pair of shots on net through seven  minutes of play.

After failing to find the back of the net on a two-man advantage midway through the period, the Mintos picked up steam, testing Wild backstop Evan  Johnson with a flurry of shots.

The Mintos finally broke through, opening scoring late in the first period when in the closing seconds of a power play, Prince Albert Raiders prospect Lance Yaremchuk snuck the puck through Johnson's five-hole to carry a 1-0 lead into second frame.

In the dying seconds of a power play which carried over into the second period, the Wild evened things up as defenceman Mark Taraschuk ripped a slap shot from the point past Ingram 16 seconds into the frame.

Stopping 33 of 35 shots on Friday, Morrison has been thrilled with his 17-year-old keepers performance in the tournament thus far.

"He's a guy that I wanted on the team," Morrison said of Ingram. "He's a gamer and we were lucky to get him and he's doing well."

Taking a trio of penalties in the middle frame, the Mintos struggled to regain the lead as their penalty killing unit bailed them out to carry the 1-1 tie into the third period.

Outshooting the Mintos to kick off the third period, the Wild did everything they could to break the stalemate but ran into Ingram who made a series of solid saves to keep things knotted  up.

Just under seven minutes into the frame, Mintos forward Jared Blaquiere sprung free on a breakaway and deked the puck past Johnson to regain his team's earlier lead.

About five minutes after Blaquiere's marker, Mintos forward Ryan Duret added to the lead, netting his second of the tournament to make it 3-1.

Although Wild forward Ezra Hall cut into the lead on a power play with less than five minutes to go, the Mintos hung on through a strong final-minute attack to secure the victory. 

The Mintos will be right back at it to take on the SMAAAHL champion Notre Dame Argos on Saturday before playing in the Western Regional final on Sunday at the Art Hauser Centre.

GAME NOTES: The Wild (0-2-0) entered regionals with the strongest regular season record of 37-5-2. The 2014 Manitoba Midget-AAA Hockey League champion Wild entered the tournament with four more regular season wins than the Argos and nine more than the host Mintos ... The Wild punched their ticket to regionals with a 3-1 series victory over the Eastman Selects in their league final ... The Mintos have appeared in the Telus Cup twice, winning back-to-back tournaments in 2006 and 2007. 

Organizations: Telus, Art Hauser Centre, Johnson's Manitoba Midget-AAA Hockey League Eastman Selects

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Notre Dame

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